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Open Letter to the Parliamentary Labour Party

27/06/2016 16:46 | Updated 27 June 2016

Dear Labour MPs,

Are you about to make yourselves permanently irrelevant? Those of you now seeking to bring down Jeremy Corbyn should pause to consider the following three points:

Corbyn is not responsible for the Brexit vote in many of your own constituencies. If you believe this, then you are singularly failing to understand what just happened. Instead of a hasty and ill-informed plot against your party leader, why not spend these hours analysing (New) Labour's own recent history and its place in the larger socio-economic context. Perhaps start with Glenn Greenwald's comprehensive piece in The Intercept: "Brexit is Only the Latest Proof of the Insularity and Failure of Western Establishment Institutions."

I need not rehearse here what Greenwald says so well, but if you choose to ignore the pain and anger of those voters you have historically taken for granted even as you left them behind, then you are not doing your jobs. To borrow from Mhairi Black's maiden speech, those voters did not leave you. You left them, long before Corbyn was leader. It should come as no surprise to you now that Farage, Johnson and Gove set up camp in the spaces you abandoned.

It is Labour's own recent legacy, an embedding of the worst aspects of the European Union - its neo-liberal and anti-democratic agenda - that came back to bite you in the referendum. And now, you need to stop and listen to your constituents in a new way if you hope to win them back. You need a more sophisticated understanding of the situation (local and global) in which we now find ourselves. Finally, you must show that you can bring all this together in a Labour party that is working to recover its commitment to equality, social inclusion, human rights, and economic justice - principles that often seemed lost until the election of Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn was a positive factor in the Labour Remain vote. During the referendum campaign, my spirits fell each time I saw Labour MPs on the platform alongside Tories, invoking Project Fear in simplistic terms that had little to do with the lives of ordinary people, and the complex problems facing the UK and Europe. I voted Remain because Corbyn refused to stand on those platforms. I voted Remain because he refused to make his case by invoking a politics of fear and xenophobia. Your leader stood by Labour's best and principled history, backing Remain in order to make the EU a more democratic and economically just organization and to make common cause with progressive movements across Europe.

In plotting against Corbyn, you replicate the same disconnect, the same democratic deficit that has made the European Union so problematic. Dear MPs, we are truly grateful for the hard work you do on our behalf. Following the terrible murder of Jo Cox and the hate speech that emerged on all sides during this campaign, we should all pause to think about how we, your constituents, articulate our disagreements with you. But in return, please forgive us for preferring that you not do our thinking for us. We ask you to engage with us, then carry our knowledge and experience with you each time you take your seats in Parliament. You are there to speak on our behalf.

If you cannot move in the direction your own members now wish you to go, then you should leave and let the rest of us stand for your seats. We are tired of the constant machinations against the most democratically elected leader in your recent history. We are tired of the elitism of New Labour and the Westminster bubble. Thousands of us are currently signing petitions in support of Corbyn and a Labour Party we can believe in. Please meet us there, in the fight against austerity and the failed neo-liberal project. If you cannot do so, you may find that you have created a space no one wants to inhabit and a party no one wants to join, let alone elect to power. Is that what you call saving the Labour Party?

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